Maryville's mask mandate needs to be extended. That very sentence will send some people into a long, poorly worded tirade about how masks are an infringement of rights — they aren’t — and how there’s no evidence they work — there is.
It would be easy in this editorial to list ad nauseam the same reasons masks work that have been written previously in this paper and from every major news outlet since March of last year. However, we need the mask mandate to be extended because despite a vaccine being ready and available, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and the Donald Trump White House have done a horrific job of distributing it, which is on par with the rest of their respective handlings of the pandemic.
As it became clearer to health experts and most of us around the country that the coronavirus wasn’t going to disappear in a few months, we all put our proverbial chips in the vaccine basket. We hoped that by some miracle the much-maligned Big Pharma could develop a vaccine in record time to end this nightmare and they did it. Less than a year after the first COVID-19 case was reported on U.S. soil, the vaccine was being distributed to long-term care facilities and medical workers.
It seemed as though we were through the storm, but thanks to poor planning and terrible decision making, we are very much in the thick of it. Trump and Parson each had months upon months to plan vaccine distribution. It’s not like the process of the making of the vaccine was being kept secret; every week there were new updates on what stage the various virus inoculations were in. It wasn’t if, but when would the vaccine be distributed, and now more than ever we needed our leaders to step up and make a plan.
In December the outgoing president decided to pass on the opportunity to secure more Pfizer vaccine doses for the U.S.; Pfizer then sold those vaccines to other countries. Don’t worry though. A spokesperson for the Trump administration said that they didn’t buy them because they didn’t know if the 95% effective clinically tested vaccine would work and didn’t want to waste money — just like they didn’t want to waste money on giving us more stimulus checks so people could afford frivolous expenditures like food and rent.
Since then it seemed to be a vicious cycle of optimistic forecasts of vaccine distributions followed by retractions and empty promises. Trump recently promised to release a stockpile of vaccines to the states, but it turns out the stockpile which wasn’t much of a stockpile had already been sent out.
Missouri is having the same issue on a smaller scale. In a press release Jan. 14 prior to Trump’s stockpile debacle, the Show-Me State executive announced that the state was officially entering Tier 1 of Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution and Tier 2 of that phase on Jan.18. Meaning that teachers, other essential workers and the elderly were next in line to roll up their sleeves. However, later on, the same press release said that only 27% of Phase 1A candidates had received a single dose of the vaccine, which is rather minimal.
It’s clear that there is a shortage, and no amount of announcements about new candidates eligible for the vaccine are going to change that. Missouri is getting half the amount of doses expected and Tom Patterson, director of Nodaway County Health Department, told local residents to be patient because there is no real timetable for ordering or distributing more inoculations locally at this time.
This problem is not unique to Nodaway County as counties and municipalities across the country are clawing for more doses and dealing with an anxious and impatient citizenry. So once again we will need the Maryville City Council to make the wise and somehow unpopular decision to extend the mandate until more and more people can be immunized against the virus.
There will certainly be metaphorical and perhaps physical gnashing of teeth if the council decides to do the right thing. Members of a certain Facebook group will begin talking about the Constitution and seeking to overthrow the elected officials who are listening to health experts rather than QAnon.
The position the Council is in right now is not an enviable one, but sometimes you have to protect people from their own ignorance. They need to extend the mask mandate because it will save lives, money and perhaps will show people that sound decisions can’t be overruled by fear-mongering and intimidation.